This post is much later than expected; sorry for that, but I only got the pictures from Bogdan yesterday. What had in fact happened was that I had put my camera battery in the charger the day before, but had forgotten to take it out again the following morning. So while I had my camera with me, it didn't have a battery. Therefore all pictures here have been taken with Bogdan's camera (some were still taken by me though), and two of them with my mobile phone (should be easy to spot which).
May 19th was our third day in Nikko, and without any festivals to stand in our way, and the further exploration of the shrines planned for the day after, today was to be spent on hiking.
Bogdan had not yet seen the Kegon Falls, since he arrived after Danny and I had gone there. And we had missed our intended bus stop the first time around: rather than getting off at the falls, one stop earlier is a cable car that leads to a viewpoint and a hike to the falls. I'm sure you get a fabulous view from the cable car itself too; I wouldn't know however, as it was far too foggy to see anything. But the clouds and fog stayed out of the valley of Chuzenji lake, so although we had fog behind us, the viewpoint did give us a very spectacular view of the falls.
From the viewpoint we began our hike, 1.5km to another viewpoint, from there down to the lake. It was a fairly steep trail (the second viewpoint was quite a bit higher than the first), but I've been doing so much walking since arriving in Japan that my physical condition was good enough. :) Although we were surrounded by clouds most of the time, whenever they cleared up we got a great view, and it was definitely worth it.
What was described in the Lonely Planet as "walking down to the lake" from the viewpoint turned out to be quite a bit more difficult: we couldn't find the trail. I suspect because it's relatively early in the year and not many people have done this hike yet. By the time we realized that we weren't going to find the trail anymore we were too far down to go back the way we came, so we decided to just keep going and hope for the best. What followed was a difficult climb down. But never really dangerous since it wasn't all that steep, don't worry; the biggest danger was that we'd end up at a dead end and have to go back. But, roughly following the course of a small stream we found a way down. At least it makes for a more interesting story this way. :P
We had intended to take the same hike from the Ryuzu Falls as the day before in the afternoon, only further this time, all the way to Yumoto Onsen, but due to time constraints (we had to be able to catch the last bus down after all), we cancelled that idea. Instead we took the bus to Yumoto Onsen, because we wanted to go to the hot springs there. We used the hot spring of a temple there, which was small, very rustic, traditional-looking, and a real natural hot spring, not just heated water. It was very relaxing after our hike, and it was also very, very, very hot. And I think I still smell of sulphur. :P
After this we took the bus down back to Nikko, and ate for the third time at our favourite restaurant; we got a free beer as a reward for our regular patronage. :)
I found a book with professional foto's of Nikko at the hostel, which tought me two things: 1. whoever made that book is a better photographer than I'll ever be; and 2. we'll have to come back to Nikko in winter, it should look spectacular. :)
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